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Saturday, February 21, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY'S REMARKS AT U.S. EMBASSY IN LONDON

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
02/21/2015 04:31 PM EST
Remarks at Press Availability
Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Embassy London
London, United Kingdom
February 21, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. Appreciate everybody’s patience. Well, good evening, everybody. It’s a pleasure for me to be back in London, and I’m very grateful to my friend Philip Hammond, foreign secretary of the U.K., not just for his hospitality but for his partnership in wrestling with some very difficult issues today.

The United States and the United Kingdom have a long tradition of great cooperation, and frankly, that tradition was reinforced today and it continues. Under President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron’s leadership, our two nations are helping to articulate the path forward in many areas of concern for the global community. And this evening I want to focus on a number of them that we discussed here today.

First, the foreign secretary and I reviewed the progress in degrading and ultimately defeating Daesh. Throughout our history, we have faced significant threats together – genocide, aggression, chaos, dictatorship, the battle against fascism and tyranny. Today we’re asked away to a new campaign against a new kind of enemy. The battlefield is very different and the weapons are different, so the strategies that we employ have to be different too in order to overcome that enemy.

I am confident that based on the choices we are making we will degrade and ultimately defeat Daesh. And in my judgment, there should be no question about that. Working together, we have brought together a coalition of more than 60 countries and it is growing still. We’ve seen progress in Iraq. Daesh was defeated at Kobani. Territory is now being taken back. The Iraqi army is beginning to stand up. Their communications, the communications of Daesh, have been disrupted. Their ability to be able to move in convoys has been disrupted. Their supply lines are being disrupted. The transportation networks they utilized are being disrupted.

And so we have started this great enterprise. We’re engaged and we’re coordinating. But obviously, there is a lot more to be done. We understand that, and that’s what we talked about today. Toward our common goal of unity and action, President Obama hosted a summit in Washington this week that brought together leading figures from local and national governments, from civil society and the private sector, people from all around the world who came together, including a robust U.K. delegation led by Home Secretary Theresa May. We’re very grateful for her contribution .

Our goal with the summit was really very simple: to expand the global conversation, and more importantly to listen to each other, share best practices, learn the lessons where things haven’t worked particularly well if they haven’t, and clarify an action agenda that identifies, shares, and deploys those best practices in preventing and countering violent extremism.

In this effort, frankly, we decided – and I think everybody agreed on this yesterday and the day before – there’s a role for every country. There’s something for everybody to be able to do in this.

Together, we committed to help countries that are at immediate risk to be able to grow stronger and to be able to fight back. And Philip Hammond and I discussed some of the things we could do to accomplish that today.

We also committed to interrupt financial flows so that the terrorist become as bankrupt in financial terms as they are in any kind of ideology or program or morality. We committed to stop the recruitment into the terrorist ranks and to work very hard in order to be able to deprive terrorists of the access that they have to those who are disillusioned or disconnected to their particular countries or societies.

We committed to help areas of the globe that are on the front lines or the ones that are next in line as targets, and particularly those that might be subject to the potential of terrorist infiltration. We also committed to work hard to create greater opportunity of positive role models for young people everywhere, and we committed to teach skills and work to improve the economies of many countries where there is a ready pool for the potential of terrorism in order to reduce the numbers of people who might be attracted to the misguided appeals that have brought, frankly, too many people to the battlefield.

Now, make no mistake: The rise of violent extremism remains a challenge for everyone, and it is particularly a challenge to global rule of law. Foreign Secretary Hammond and I agreed that we believe we have made the right initial choices, that we are on the right path, we are confident about the future, but we’re also realistic about those places where we still need to do more to meet the challenge. The reason we are confident is, frankly, because the terrorists have absolutely nothing positive to offer anyone and because nations are coming together across every boundary, every boundary – the boundaries of territory, the boundaries of creed, of religion, of ideology, of governance – in order to move forward in the name of decency, civility, and reason.

Foreign Secretary Hammond and I also discussed the egregious Russian and separatist violations of the February 12th Minsk agreement in Ukraine which embraced the September agreements and set forth a very clear path for what was needed to be done to be able to put a cease-fire in place and begin to live up to those agreements.

One of the most egregious violations is obviously the assault, the full-scale assault on the city of Debaltseve and the violations of the cease-fire in the resupply of the separatists by Russia. Let me be clear: We know to a certainty what Russia has been providing, and no amount of propaganda is capable of hiding these actions. And for anyone who wants to make gray areas out of black, let’s get very real. The Minsk implementation agreement is not open to interpretation. It’s not vague. It’s not optional. It’s called for a complete cease-fire that was to take effect on the night of February 15th with full OSCE access to the conflict zone, and the pullback of all heavy weapons from the line of contact.

So far, Russia and the separatists are only complying in a few areas selectively, not in Debaltseve, not outside Mariopol, and not in other key strategic areas. And that is simply unacceptable. If this failure continues, make no mistake: There will be further consequences, including consequences that would place added strains on Russia’s already troubled economy. We’re not going to sit back and allow this kind of cynical, craven behavior to continue at the expense of the sovereignty and integrity of another nation. And I am confident that the United States and the United Kingdom and others are prepared to stand up and take the measures necessary to add to the cost of these actions.

Foreign Secretary Hammond and I also discussed the concerns that we share about the continued viability of the Palestinian Authority if they do not receive funds soon. If the Palestinian Authority ceases or were to cease, security cooperation – or even decide to disband as a result of their economic predicament, and that could happen in the near future if they don’t receive additional revenues – then we would be faced with yet another crisis that could also greatly impact the security of both Palestinians and Israelis. And that would have the potential of serious ripple effects elsewhere in the region.

So we’re working hard to try to prevent that from happening, and that’s why we’ve been reaching out to key stakeholders in order to express these concerns but also to try to work together to be able to find a solution to this challenge.

Finally, Foreign Secretary Hammond and I discussed the P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran. Our governments remain in lockstep with our international partners on the importance of cutting off Iran’s pathways to the potential of a nuclear weapon. And will travel to Geneva tomorrow to meet with Foreign Minister Zarif to see if we can make progress in these talks. A unified P5+1 has put on the table creative ideas to achieve our objective, and now we will find out whether or not Iran is able to match its words about its willingness to show that its program is fully peaceful with the verifiable actions and verifiable decisions that are necessary to accomplish that goal.

Finally, I meant to say a moment ago we also discussed Syria today. The challenge of the Assad regime, which continues to drop barrel bombs on innocent civilians, the challenge of a country that is continuing to be torn apart by this violence. The jihadis who are attracted to Syria because of Assad’s presence and the extraordinary spillover of impact on Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, the region, as a consequence of the numbers of refugees that continue to be created by this violence.

So it is our hope that with good effort over the course of the next weeks and months, we might even be able to find a way to have a greater impact on finding the negotiated path, which is the only ultimate path which will resolve the question of violence and restore stability and integrity to a potentially unified, secular, and stable Syria.

With that, I would be happy to take some questions.

MS. HARF: Great. The first question is for Rosiland Jordan of Al-Jazeera. I’m going to bring the microphone to you.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. First on Ukraine, you described in general terms what came out of your discussions with Foreign Minister Hammond. How likely is it, first, that more economic sanctions and travel bans are going to be imposed? How long is the U.S. willing to wait to see whether the Minsk cease-fire of the past week actually is going to take full effect? Why is it realistic to think that even more economic sanctions are going to persuade Vladimir Putin and his government to change course? Their economy has now been rated at junk bond status and they still seem to be intent on spreading their influence using separatists and Russian troops.

And finally on Ukraine, is it time to give the Ukrainian military lethal weapons so that they can better defend their own territory, especially given that there isn’t a NATO commitment to Ukraine’s security?

And then on the Iran nuclear talks --

SECRETARY KERRY: I’ve got to get a pencil here to write all those questions down. (Laughter.) I need a piece of paper, actually. You’ve got a few more questions there than (inaudible).

QUESTION: Regarding the talks, sir –

SECRETARY KERRY: On what now?

QUESTION: On Iran.

SECRETARY KERRY: We’re Iran now?

QUESTION: Yes, we’re on Iran. Will the U.S. and Iran actually achieve a political framework for a deal by March 31st? How urgent in your estimation is the sentiment on both sides to achieve this deal? Does the fact that the U.S. Energy Secretary Dr. Moniz and his Iranian counterpart, Dr. Salehi, to discuss the technical issues mean that the really tough stuff is getting worked out and that everyone is getting very close to this deal?

And then we have to look at the prospect of what you and the President have said in the past: “No deal is better than a bad deal.” If there is no deal by March 31st, is the U.S. willing to walk away from the table, leave behind the efforts of the JPOA, and essentially reestablish the status quo regarding Iran’s nuclear program?

SECRETARY KERRY: Okay. So let me begin with the last of the questions with respect to Ukraine and then I’ll deal with the other questions on Ukraine. With respect to lethal weapons, we’ve made it very, very clear that that is a discussion that it taking place in Washington both in the Congress as well as in the Administration. No decision has been made by the President at this point in time, and I think we have to see what happens in the next few days with respect to the events that are taking place now on the ground.

With respect to the events that are taking place now on the ground, I think I’ve spoken to them in the course of my opening comments very, very clearly. But the fact is that yes, sanctions are being considered because there are a number of more serious sanctions that yet remain available to the European Community and the United States and others who are sharing in the implementation of these sanctions.

And they are having an impact; there is no question about it. Now, it may not have yet succeeded in presenting President Putin with a choice that he’s been willing to make, but I am confident that in Russia generally there will be an increasing amount of questioning of the course that he is on should additional sanctions be implemented. And there are some yet very serious sanctions that can be taken which have a profound increased negative impact on the Russian economy.

I have said persistently, as President Obama has, that we’re not seeking to hurt the people of Russia, who regrettably pay a collateral price as a result of these sanctions, and we’ve tried to target them as effectively as possible to be able to have an impact on the decision making of those in government itself. But increasingly, there will be an inevitable broader impact as the sanctions ratchet up.

So in the next few days, I anticipate that President Obama will evaluate the choices that are in front of him and will make his decision as to what the next step will be. But there is serious discussion taking place between us and our European allies as to what those next sanction steps ought to be and when they perhaps ought to be implemented. And I am confident that some additional steps will be taken in response to the breaches of this cease-fire and to the process that had been agreed upon in Minsk.

QUESTION: And regarding the Iranian talks?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, regarding the Iranian talks, the presence of Secretary Ernie Moniz is a reflection of the fact that these talks are very technical, and because we are pushing to try to come to agreement on some very difficult issues, it was deemed necessary and appropriate to be able to have our technical people be able to sit with their technical people at the highest level in order to try to resolve any differences that may exist.

I would not read into it any indication whatsoever that something is about to be decided as a result of that. There are still significant gaps. There is still a distance to travel. And with respect to the end date that you asked about, President Obama has no inclination whatsoever to extend these talks beyond the period that has been set out with a feeling that it is imperative to be able to come to a fundamental political outline and agreement within the time span that we have left. And if that can’t be done, that it would be an indication that fundamental choices are not being made that are essential to doing that.

So our target remains, as the President has said, towards the end of March, and I am absolutely confident that President Obama is fully prepared to stop these talks if he feels that they’re not being met with the kind of productive decision making necessary to prove that a program is, in fact, peaceful.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Great. Our final question is from Nick Childs of the BBC.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. In view of the Ukraine crisis, the issues of the broader relationship now with Russia, and in particular how NATO as an alliance responds to it, the United Kingdom is one of the few countries within NATO now that currently maintains the 2 percent minimum defense spending level, but at the moment the British Government has no formal commitment to sustain it beyond 2016. With the backdrop of everything that is going on, would you welcome a firmer commitment from the United Kingdom Government to sustain the 2 percent defense spending level into the future, perhaps to encourage others?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me just say that I don’t want to inadvertently find myself getting in the way of – in any kind of domestic debate that may be going on with respect to an election that is not too far away. And so I’ll answer it in a way that is straightforward but nevertheless not, I think, different from where we’ve been in the past with respect to this issue.

It is standing policy of NATO, standing policy of the United States, which we have expressed through the years frequently and I have personally expressed recently in Brussels, the importance of all NATO members adhering to the 2 percent level. We’re not looking for some kind of reaffirmation or restatements that go well out into the future or something. What we’re looking for is this year’s budget, and that’s what’s important given what has happened in Ukraine, given the pressures on frontline states and the need to have a shared responsibility in order to meet the overall challenge of sustaining NATO as the vital alliance that it is and has been, and being able to send a message to anybody who were to challenge it that people are prepared to live up to their obligations and not just keep it strong but strengthen it at this particular moment. We’ve engaged in a very significant reassurance plan to a number of countries – the Baltics particularly, Poland, others – who are on the front lines. And I think it’s important for them to know that their fellow members of the NATO alliance are doing their share at the same time.

So we’re very pleased that Great Britain has been and remains a steadfast member and contributor to that alliance, one of the leaders of the alliance, in fact. And we have great respect for the armed force capacity and partnership that Great Britain provides with respect to its military obligations and efforts. And I’m confident that the prime minister and the current government will continue to do that. Thank you.

MS. HARF: Thank you, everyone.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thanks, all. Appreciate it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

U.S. CONDEMNS OPPOSITION LEADER'S DETENTION BY VENEZUELAN GOVERNMENT

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Venezuelan Government Detains Key Opposition Figure
Press Statement
Jen Psaki
Department Spokesperson
Washington, DC
February 20, 2015

The United States condemns the detention of Caracas Metropolitan Mayor Antonio Ledezma by Venezuelan security forces, as well as the systematic intimidation of other leading opposition figures. These actions appear to be a clear attempt by the Venezuelan government to divert attention from the country’s economic and political challenges. Rather than imprisoning and intimidating its critics, the Venezuelan government should focus on finding real solutions through democratic dialogue.

Venezuela’s problems cannot be solved by criminalizing legitimate, democratic dissent. These tactics violate the Venezuelan people’s basic human rights and civil liberties and flout the principles and values set forth in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

The Venezuelan government should release those it has unjustly jailed and respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. The United States calls on other countries, leaders, and organizations to urge the Venezuelan government to cease these efforts to silence the political opposition and further weaken democratic institutions.

Weekly Address: We Should Make Sure the Future Is Written by Us



NASA VIDEO | MMS MISSION OVERVIEW

GENERAL DEMPSEY SAYS CYBER AMONG TOP THREATS

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

Right:  Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talks to about 700 attendees during a student conference on national affairs at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, Feb. 19, 2015. DoD photo by D. Myles Cullen.  

Dempsey: Russia, Terrorists, Cyber Among Top Threats
By Lisa Ferdinando
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, Feb. 19, 2015 – The global security environment contains a host of threats, including Russian aggression that threatens NATO allies, and the violent extremists network from western Pakistan to north Africa, said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey spoke today at a student conference on national affairs at Texas A&M University, rounding out a two-day visit to the campus.
He outlined his "two, two, two and one" view on national security, which is comprised of two heavyweights, two middleweights, two networks and one domain.

Russia is included as a heavyweight, along with China.
Russia ‘Lit a Fire’

Russia "lit a fire of ethnicity and nationalism that actually threatens to burn out of control," he said. "And in so doing, they are threatening our NATO allies."
Dempsey said it is hard to imagine that in 2015 there would be that kind of conflict and "those kind of instincts" that are coming to the front again in Europe.
The human suffering in Ukraine is "atrocious," he said.

"It's almost unimaginable," the chairman told the audience, which included members of the Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets, other university students and members of the military.

The United States is working with its NATO allies, he said, to reassure the alliance and also try to assist Eastern Europe, including non-NATO countries, in "suppressing this effort to rekindle fires that haven’t burned in Europe" in 70 years.

China Reemerging

On the other heavyweight, China, he said that nation is reemerging on the global scene. It is a very strong economic country that is becoming militarily strong, the chairman said.

The United States will continue to work with China in managing any differences, he said.

"We'll be competitors but it doesn’t mean, I think, we'll have to be enemies," he said. "We're working hard to do that."

Middleweight Powers: Iran, North Korea

The two middleweights are Iran and North Korea.

The United States is working with its partners to try to convince Iran to seek a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue, he said. Western nations contend that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, while Tehran says its nuclear ambitions are for peaceful purposes.

"We are working hard to reach a negotiated settlement on their nuclear program, but we shouldn’t forget there are other issues which cause us concern about Iran," the chairman said, noting those concerns include Iran being a state sponsor of terrorism.

Networks and Cyber Domain

The two networks Dempsey talked about in his speech are the violent extremist network from western Pakistan to northern Africa, and the transnational criminal network that runs north and south in the Western Hemisphere. The domain is cyber.

The transregional network of al-Qaida, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and other terrorists are competing for a radical, anti-Western ideology that is fomenting the internal challenges of Islam's Sunni and Shia, he said.

"That network is transregional,” he said. “It will take a generation or more to be defeated and it will take persistence on our part and working closely and most often through partners and hardening our allies in order to deal with it."

To combat both the extremist and transnational criminal networks, they need to be "pressed" across their entire length, not just "pinched" in a spot, the chairman said.

"You have to interdict the financing; you have to interdict the flow of foreign fighters or criminals. It takes a really broad effort with partners to deal with that," he said.

Finally, on the domain of cyber, he said, "we've got a lot of work to do. We've made some strides, some pretty significant strides, militarily in particular in terms of defending ourselves."

But the general said despite the security in military networks, 90 percent of his administration and logistics functions ride on commercial Internet providers.
"So if they're vulnerable, I'm vulnerable and I don't like being vulnerable," he said.

Action in securing this domain, he said, includes legislation that establishes a common set of standards on Internet security, and allows information sharing between the government and the private sector.

From College Station, Dempsey travels on to Kwajalein Atoll and Australia.

WEST WING WEEK: 02/20/2015



INTERPOL SECRETARY GENERAL STOCK VISITS WASHINGTON OFFICE

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT

WASHINGTON, DC – On February 19, 2015, newly elected Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock visited the Interpol Washington office. While at the agency, Dr. Stock addressed Interpol Washington staff, highlighting the role effective information sharing can play via the world police body’s tools and resources and underscoring that the key to the organization’s strength lies in collaboration with Interpol’s 189 other member countries. Dr. Stock also emphasized the importance of defining Interpol’s core capabilities. After his remarks, the Secretary General toured the office, visiting with analysts in Interpol Washington’s 24/7 Interpol Operations and Command Center (IOCC) and meeting with Interpol Washington’s senior staff.

Prior to his visit at Interpol Washington, the Secretary General presented at a ministerial session during the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism. The meeting was organized by the U.S. Department of State and attended by Secretary of State John Kerry, Attorney General Eric Holder and Assistant Attorney General John Carlin. In his address, Dr. Stock underlined the effectiveness of Interpol’s Foreign Terrorist Fighter program to deter the movements of foreign fighters. The program represents the third pillar of President Barack Obama’s National Security Strategy and was lauded as a critical component in the fight against transnational crime in the United Nations’ Security Council Resolution 2178. The program has over 40 participating countries which share information on more than 1,500 suspected and confirmed fighters linked to Syria and Iraq. Foreign fighters may seek to travel with revoked passports, stolen or lost passports, or simply their own valid travel documents. In the first two cases, Interpol’s Stolen and Lost Travel Document database can make this information available at the frontlines. In cases where the individual’s valid passport information has been shared, Interpol global tools will generate hit alarms.

SECRETARY KERRY MAKES REMARKS WITH JORDANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
02/20/2015 10:13 AM EST
Remarks With Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh
Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
February 20, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY: Good morning, everybody. Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh is one of my most frequent interlocutors. He has been a partner now with me for two years and with our country for many years. He’s the longest serving foreign minister in the history of Jordan, and he has done an enormous amount to help us advance our partnership, and it is a partnership. We just signed an MOU a few days ago for a billion dollars a year for the next three years in our aid and assistance to Jordan, which is a reflection of the very, very key role that Jordan is playing in terms of many efforts in the Middle East: the counter-ISIL/Daesh effort, our initiatives with respect to Middle East peace, Palestinian-Israeli relations, security, counterterrorism, and of course, Syria – the efforts at the moment to deal with the challenges of terrorism emanating from Syria.

So Jordan is also feeling more of the consequences of this disruption in the Middle East than almost any other country. They have well over a million, maybe million and a half refugees in their country who have come out of Syria. It’s a distortion in their economy and presents enormous challenges internally. So we simply could not find a country that has been more willing to be a good standup, get-the-job-done partner than the Kingdom of Jordan.

And I want to express on behalf of all Americans our outrage, our horror at the brutal, horrendous, medieval burning of the Jordanian pilot, Captain al-Kasasbeh, simply reinforcing in all of us our commitment to destroy ISIL ultimately and to stand together in partnership against this kind of mindless violence. So we have our challenges, but we could not have a better partnership in the effort to meet those challenges and are very grateful to King Abdullah of Jordan for his commitment to this effort and to the many, many interventions that Nasser and I have had together. Thank you, my friend.

FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary, my dear friend, John. You are always so kind, and your hospitality is always so warm, and your friendship to Jordan, to His Majesty is a friendship that we cherish at the personal level and also the friendship that we have with your great country across the world. And every time I’m here at the State Department, I’m always reminded – I’ll remind myself to say that this is a relationship that is not just a partnership, but a true friendship with a commonality of interest, common challenges, a shared history, and a shared commitment to meet the challenges that we face together, not just in our region, but around the world with commitment and resolve.

And this renewed commitment, Mr. Secretary, particularly after your kind and warm sentiments regarding our brave, young pilot, Captain Moaz al-Kasasbeh, and the way you described it very accurate – a brutal, barbaric act by a bunch of terrorists who do not belong to our civilization or the world as we know it today, and certainly do not belong to any religion or any culture even though they try to distort the image of our great religion and its noble message. But this brutal act has multiplied our resolve to fight this evil and to eradicate it, and we are working together with you and with many of our friends and allies around the world.

I’m here, Mr. Secretary, to attend what was a very important function yesterday, the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, and all the preparations that were made by Secretary Kerry himself and the State Department, as well as the presence of the President himself yesterday morning and his words of wisdom regarding the roadmap ahead of us in this fight that we’re all in.

But I’m also here as a follow-up to His Majesty King Abdullah’s visit to Washington earlier this month and his visit to Washington two months before that, and I think the frequency of these visits is reflective of the special relationship that we have with the United States of America. We cannot thank you enough for your support for Jordan, to Jordanians, especially in difficult times. You are absolutely right, when we have to deal with the challenge of an increase of 21 percent to our population in the span of 18 months, no country, regardless of political or economic might, can cope with something like that. The international goodwill that we are receiving, an outpour of it, really has helped us get through this thus far, but it’s way short of what’s needed to deal with that. Your country, the United States of America, our friends here, have been so supportive and we very much appreciate that. And I’m glad that you mentioned the memorandum of understanding that we signed a couple of weeks ago, with this renewed commitment to assist Jordan over the next three years. There’s much more to be done, particularly after this escalation of the fight against ISIL and against all the forces of evil.

Mr. Secretary, let me just reiterate what His Majesty the King, says repeatedly: This is our war. This is a war that has to have a Muslim/Arab stand, but without the support of our international friends, our partners in the coalition, we cannot do it and we cannot eradicate this evil. It is truly a third world war by other means. You have over 90 nationalities fighting along these sick, warp-minded terrorists, and you have over 65 countries as part of a coalition. All of us are being threatened by these people – all our countries, all our individuals – and I think it takes the collective effort of all of us to defeat them and we shall prevail.

So thank you very much for your support, thank you very much for your friendship, and long may this true partnership live.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Thank you, Nasser.

FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Thank you. Thank you very much.

IRS LOOKING TO APPOINTMENTS AS MEANS TO REDUCE WAITING TIMES

FROM:  U.S. INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE
February 18, 2015
IRS Begins Limited Test of Providing Appointments at 10 Walk-In Locations; Goal to Increase Efficiency, Help Taxpayers

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service announced today a limited test in 10 of its larger Tax Assistance Centers around the country to determine if an appointment-based  service approach can help reduce taxpayer wait times during a time of severe budget cuts.

While the IRS believes this approach will benefit taxpayers by helping them avoid long waits in line that they otherwise might have experienced, the IRS is testing this process during the tax filing season to ensure this is a more efficient approach for taxpayers.

“During a challenging filing season with a very limited budget, we need to find ways to increase our efficiency and still provide the best service possible to taxpayers,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “My hope is that this test increases the level of customer service that we can provide while minimizing needless burden on taxpayers.”

The IRS believes the appointments could help taxpayers by allowing them to know in advance that they can get the service they need. The process typically in place at most IRS offices cannot guarantee when or if a taxpayer can receive assistance; it is on a first come-first served basis. This situation can force taxpayers to wait in long lines, sometimes with waits lasting over an hour.

The initial test locations available by appointment are: Atlanta, Ga. (Atlanta-Woodcock), Austin, Texas, Birmingham, Ala., Chicago, Ill. (Dearborn), Denver, Colo., Fresno, Calif., Hartford, Conn., Plantation, Fla., San Antonio, Texas, and Seattle, Wash. The appointment-based test begins Feb. 23.

Overall, the IRS has more than 350 walk-in locations across the nation.

Taxpayers should always check IRS.gov for days and hours of service as well as services offered at the location they plan to visit. For information on how to make an appointment, please visit the contact my local office page on IRS.gov.

At these 10 locations, taxpayer service will continue to be offered without an appointment for those picking up limited forms or making a payment, but the IRS encourages taxpayers to use IRS.gov to get forms and Direct Pay to make the payment online whenever possible. All other services will require an appointment. Additional test sites may be added in the near future.

Friday, February 20, 2015

U.S. CONDEMNS ATTACKS ON SOMALIA CENTRAL HOTEL

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Condemnation of Attacks on Somalia Central Hotel
Press Statement
Jen Psaki
Department Spokesperson
Washington, DC
February 20, 2015

The United States strongly condemns al-Shabaab’s terrorist attack on the Central Hotel in Mogadishu today. We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those killed in the attack, and wish the injured a speedy recovery.

This murderous attack, targeting government ministers and Members of Parliament, once again highlights that al-Shabaab stands only for death and destruction, and is firmly opposed to the Somali people’s efforts to build a secure and prosperous future.

The United States will continue to support the Somali people and their government as they rebuild their country. Those who stand in the way of Somalia’s progress will not succeed.

NASA VIDEO: NEW ERA FOR KENNEDY SPACE CENTER

U.S. MARSHALS WILL HOLD AUCTION TO SELL 50,000 BITCOINS

FROM:  U.S. MARSHALS SERVICE
U.S. Marshals Office of Public Affairs
U.S. Marshals to Hold Another Bitcoin Auction

 Washington – The U.S. Marshals are again auctioning 50,000 bitcoins in connection with a civil forfeiture action against and the criminal conviction of Ross Ulbricht in federal court in the Southern District of New York.

The auction will take place during a 6-hour period on March 5 from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. EST. Bids will be accepted by email from pre-registered bidders only.

To register, potential bidders must complete all registration requirements by noon EST March 2. Registration documents that were submitted for the Marshals’ previous Bitcoin auctions are not valid for this auction. Interested bidders must submit new registration documents to be considered for this auction. The 50,000 bitcoins are offered in 20 blocks: 10 blocks of 2,000 bitcoins and 10 blocks of 3,000 bitcoins. The winning bidder(s) will be notified on March 6.

The United States and Ulbricht agreed to the sale of these bitcoins, which was approved by a court order in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Jan. 27, 2014.

Ulbricht, 30, was found guilty Feb. 4 on all seven counts in connection with his operation and ownership of Silk Road, a hidden website designed to enable its users to buy and sell illegal drugs and other unlawful goods and services anonymously and beyond the reach of law enforcement. His sentencing is scheduled for May 15.

REAL ESTATE BUSINESSMAN PLEADS GUILTY TO FRAUD

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Thursday, February 19, 2015
Detroit Real Estate Businessman Pleads Guilty to Tax and Bank Fraud

On Feb. 18, a Detroit man pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan to obstructing and impeding the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and conspiring to commit bank fraud, Principal Deputy Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Justice Department’s Tax Division announced.

According to the information and other court documents, Richard Pierce failed to report over $9 million in gross business receipts during 2007 through 2013, derived from the various Detroit-area businesses that he operated and controlled, including Phoenix Real Estate Company, Phoenix Preferred Properties LLC, Detroit Matrix, First Metro Properties LLC, First Metro Real Estate Services LLC, Phoenix Office Plaza-II LLC, Rosedale/Grandmont Properties LLC, and RFP Ventures LLC.  In addition, on Nov. 26, 2007, Pierce participated in a bank fraud scheme wherein he caused the submission of a false loan application to a mortgage lender on which he falsely reported that the buyer was paying $77,900 for a residential property without disclosing that the buyer received a $46,340 “kickback” from the seller.

Sentencing is scheduled for July 8 before U.S. District Court Judge Arthur J. Tarnow of the Eastern District of Michigan.  Pierce faces a statutory maximum sentence of three years in prison for filing a false tax return and a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for conspiring to commit bank fraud, with maximum potential fines totaling $1.25 million.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo commended special agents of IRS – Criminal Investigation, who investigated the case, and Trial Attorneys Mark McDonald and Christopher O’Donnell of the Tax Division, who are prosecuting the case.  She also thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Michigan for their assistance.

HAMPTONS RESIDENT PLEADS GUILTY FOR ROLE IN SCHEME TO CONCEAL SWISS BANK ACCOUNTS

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
New York Man Residing in the Hamptons Pleads Guilty to Obstructing Internal Revenue Service for Concealing Swiss Bank Accounts

A Montauk, New York, resident pleaded guilty today in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York to corruptly endeavoring to obstruct and impede the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Department of Justice’s Tax Division announced today.

According to court documents and statements, Georges Briguet, a naturalized U.S. citizen, had Swiss financial accounts at UBS AG and at Clariden Leu Ltd., which was a wholly owned subsidiary of Credit Suisse AG.  He opened the UBS account in Switzerland in or around 1992, with approximately 7 million Swiss francs.  In 2008, he transferred the UBS funds to a numbered account at Clariden Leu in Switzerland, which he maintained until at least 2011.  For tax years 2001 through 2010, Briguet filed false federal income tax returns on which he failed to report his foreign financial accounts, failed to report any income earned thereon and failed to pay any taxes on such foreign income.

In addition, Briguet was interviewed by an IRS revenue agent who was conducting a civil audit.  During the interview, Briguet falsely stated that he had no foreign income and no foreign financial accounts.  He then later repeated those false statements to an IRS special agent who interviewed Briguet as part of a criminal investigation.

At sentencing, Briguet faces a statutory maximum sentence of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  As part of his plea agreement, Briguet has agreed to pay the IRS restitution in the amount of $169,935.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo commended special agents of IRS - Criminal Investigation who investigated the case, and Trial Attorneys Mark Kotila and Jeffrey Bender and Senior Litigation Counsel Mark Daly of the Tax Division, who are prosecuting the case.  She also thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York for their assistance.

FDIC SAYS BRICK-AND-MORTAR BANKING MAIN MEANS ACCESS TO FDIC-INSURED INSTITUTIONS

FROM:  FEDERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE CORPORATION

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) today released a study showing that despite the increased use of online and mobile banking, brick-and-mortar banking offices continue to be the primary means through which FDIC-insured institutions deliver financial services to their customers. FDIC-insured institutions operated 94,725 banking offices as of June 2014, a decline of just 4.8 percent from the all-time high of 99,550 offices in 2009.

The study identifies four main factors that have influenced the number and distribution of banking offices over time: population growth, banking crises, legislative changes to branching laws, and technological innovation. In terms of technological change, there is little evidence that the emergence of new electronic channels for delivering banking services has substantially diminished the need for traditional branch offices where banking relationships are built.

Historically, net declines in branch offices have typically followed periods of financial distress, such as the Great Depression, the S&L and banking crisis of the 1980s, and the most recent financial crisis. The relaxation of branching laws in the 1980s and 1990s appears to have increased the prevalence of banking offices by removing legislative constraints on the size and geographic scope of the branch networks that each bank could operate. Since 1970, banks have introduced a series of new electronic channels for delivering banking services. Yet between 1970 and 2014 the total number of banking offices grew nearly twice as fast as the U.S. population, and as of 2014 the density of banking offices per capita was higher than it had been at any point prior to 1977.

According to the 2013 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households, visiting a teller remains the most common way for households to access their accounts.

SECRETARY KERRY'S REMARKS AT SUMMIT ON COUNTERING VIOLENT EXTREMISM

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Outlining an Action Agenda to Counter Violent Extremism
Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism
Washington, DC
February 19, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY: So good morning, all. That video very briefly are some of the images of terror and much of the rationale for our being here today. Nobody wants the good to die young, and we all have an enormous obligation, enormous responsibility to find the ways to meet this scourge.

This is the ministerial component of these several days here in Washington, and I want to thank everybody. I know that the schedule of any minister in government today is enormously challenging. So for all of you to come here and spend this much time is really a reflection of the deep commitment and concern about the challenges that we face.

And at the White House yesterday, local practitioners and civil society leaders from around the world gathered to highlight the community-led efforts that can prevent terrorist recruitment and infiltration. There’s been a silly debate in the media in the last days about sort of what you have to do. You have to do everything. You have to take the people off the battlefield who are there today, but you’re kind of stupid if all you do is do that and you don’t prevent more people from going to the battlefield. So we have a broad challenge here. And mostly it is to talk about facts and realities and to take those realities and put them into a real strategy that we all implement together. No one country, no one army, no one group is going to be able to respond to this adequately. And we see that in the numbers of countries that are now being touched by it.

So our goal today is to build on the discussions of the last two days by looking at ways both to address the most alarming threats that we face, but also to get practical, to strengthen the role of civil society – in particular women, youth, and victims – and to ensure that civil society has the space to be able to operate. We need to identify and amplify credible voices, expanding religious and other education that promotes tolerance and peace and respect for all religions; we need to address the social, economic, and political marginalization that is part of this challenge.

When I was recently in a country in northern Africa, the foreign minister there over a good dinner told me about the challenge of a certain portion of their population where young people are just proselytized and captured at a very young stage, paid money in some cases. And once their minds are full of this invective and this distortion, they don’t need to pay them anymore. But what was chilling was, this foreign minister said to me, they don’t have a five-year strategy; they have a 35-year strategy. And so we have to come together and say, “What’s our strategy? How are we going to respond?”;

Our goal today is to take this chance to think broadly about how to prevent violent ideologies from taking hold, and how to prevent terrorist networks such as ISIL or Boko Haram or any group of other names from linking up with aggrieved groups elsewhere, and how to prevent them from thereby expanding their influence.

This morning, I expect that the secretary-general and President Obama will urge us to push ahead as far and as fast as we can to work on the – to develop the work streams that we have already identified. And some of our efforts are going to take place in public gatherings such as this. But I think everybody here understands that much of this work is going to be done quietly, without fanfare, in classrooms, in community centers, in workplaces, in houses of worship, on urban street corners, and in village markets. In the months to come, we will have regional summits, and I’m sure we’ll have other events, which will gauge the progress and measure the next steps. And in New York this fall, our leaders will come together as a group. But between now and then, we must all contribute, and our collaboration and our cooperation must be constant.

Now, we need to remember that our adversaries don’t have to cope with distractions. They don’t have a broad set of responsibilities to fulfill. They don’t have the same institutional responsibilities that we do to meet the needs of our citizens. Terror is their obsession. It’s what they do. And if we let them, their singleness of purpose could actually wind up giving them a comparative advantage. But with the images of recent outbreaks fresh in our minds, everybody here knows we simply can’t let that happen. We have to match their commitment and we have to leave them with no advantage at all.

And this morning, we will begin with a session devoted to a single word: why. Why do people make what to many of us would seem to be an utterly wrongheaded choice and become the kind of terrorists that we’re seeing? It’s a question that we need to approach with humility, but also with determination, because you cannot defeat what you don’t understand. Certainly, there is no single answer.

In our era, poisonous ideas can come from almost anywhere – from parents, teachers, friends, preachers, politicians – from the pretty woman on a radical website who lures people or the man in the next cell who proselytizes while in prison. They might grow from pictures seen on the nightly news or from acts of discrimination or repression that you don’t think much about on the day of occurrence, but which come back to haunt. It could come from the desire to avenge the death of a loved one. In some cases, they may come from a lost job or from the contrast between one family’s empty dinner plate and a fancy restaurant’s lavish menu. The poison might even come from within, in the form of rebellion against anonymity, the desire to belong to a group, people who want a moment of visibility and identity, or the hunger for black and white answers to problems that are very complex in a remarkably more complicated world.

We can all understand the search for meaning and doubts about authority, because at one time or another, most of us have been there. But it’s a huge leap between personal disquiet and committing murder, mayhem. So let there be no confusion or doubt: Whatever one’s individual experience might be, there are no grounds of history, religion, ideology, psychology, politics or economic disadvantage, or personal ambition that will ever justify the killing of children, the kidnapping or rape of teenage girls, or the slaughter of unarmed civilians. These atrocities cannot be rationalized; they cannot be excused. They must be opposed and they must be stopped. Whether in classrooms or houses of worship or over the internet or on TV, our message is very straightforward. To anyone who’s in doubt, we can say with conviction to have no doubt there’s a better way to serve God, a better way to protect loved ones, a better way to defend a community, a better way to seek justice, a better way to become known, a better way to live than by embracing violent extremism. In fact, there is no worse way to do any of those things.

Our challenge then is not really one of marshaling facts, because the facts are wholly on our side. Our task is to encourage the most credible leaders and spokespersons to penetrate the barrier of terrorist lies and to do so over and over and over again. We have to support the right people saying the right things all the time. That also means that we have to be crystal clear in separating what we oppose from what we should always be eager to defend. We have to be steadfast advocates of religious freedom, supporters of the right to peaceful dissent, opponents of bigotry in every form, and builders of opportunity for all.

Friends, our arms are open. Our minds are open to the ideas. The partnership against violent extremism that we are assembling has room for anyone who is willing to respect the fundamental rights and dignity of other human beings. And so it is appropriate this morning that we will be privileged to hear from the secretary-general of the United Nations, an organization whose founding, purpose, is to encourage us all to practice tolerance and live together in peace. Through these – through its efforts at peacebuilding, conflict resolution, development, the UN has obviously been an invaluable contributor to the long-term battle against international terror and the global partnership that is represented here today. This effort is not something taking place outside of the UN; this is to support the UN resolution, respect to this, and is to support the efforts that we have all been part of for so long.

In 2006, Ban Ki-moon was chosen to lead the UN. Five years later he was reelected. He’s been a voice of healing and reconciliation. And despite the fact that the job of secretary-general is nearly impossible, Ban Ki-moon has become known across the globe for his energy and his commitment. And it’s my honor to present to you the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon. (Applause.)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

2/18/15: White House Press Briefing

MAN INDICTED FOR CONSPIRACY TO PROVIDE SUPPORT TO ISIL BY JOINING THE ORGANIZATION

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Thursday, February 19, 2015
Hamza Naj Ahmed Indicted for Conspiring to Provide Material Support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Ahmed Stopped in New York While Attempting to Fly Overseas to Join Terror Organization
Defendant Also Charged with Lying to Federal Agents during Terrorism Investigation

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin and U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger for the District of Minnesota announced today the indictment of Hamza Naj Ahmed, 19, for conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).  Ahmed is also charged with attempting to provide material support to ISIL and for making a false statement in a terrorism investigation.  Ahmed was previously charged by criminal complaint for lying to FBI agents.  The defendant was detained on Feb. 5, 2015, after making an initial appearance before Magistrate Judge Steven Rau in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“Hamza Ahmed is at least the fourth person from the Twin Cities charged as a result of an ongoing investigation into individuals who have traveled or are attempting to travel to Syria in order to join a foreign terrorist organization,” said U.S. Attorney Luger. “Since 2007, dozens of people from the Twin Cities have traveled or attempted to travel overseas in support of terror. While my office will continue to prosecute those who attempt to provide material support to ISIL or any other terrorist organization, we remain committed to working with dedicated community members to bring this cycle to an end.”

According to the indictment and documents filed in court, Ahmed and three companions, M.F., H.M.M. and Z.A., travelled by bus from Minneapolis to New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK).  The four men were each booked on international flights scheduled to depart JFK on Nov. 8, 2014.  Ahmed and M.F. were booked on the same flight from JFK to Istanbul, Turkey.  M.F., H.M.M. and Z.A. were each prevented from boarding their flights.  Ahmed successfully boarded, but was escorted from the aircraft by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents before it left the boarding gate.

According to the indictment and documents filed in court, Ahmed was subsequently interviewed by FBI agents.  He made multiple false statements during the interview, including telling agents that he was traveling alone, and that he did not know M.F. or H.M.M.  When Ahmed arrived back in Minnesota on Nov. 9, 2014, FBI agents conducted a second voluntary interview, during which Ahmed again lied to agents.

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force.

This case is being prosecuted by Attorney Andrew Sigler of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew Winter and John Docherty of the District of Minnesota.

Defendant Information:                                                                                                                  

HAMZA NAJ AHMED, 19

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Charges:

Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to a Designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, 1 count

Attempting to Provide Material Support to a Designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, 1 count

Making a False Statement in a Terrorism Investigation, 1 count

TWO VIEWS OF CERES

FROM:  NASA 



These two views of Ceres were acquired by NASA's Dawn spacecraft on Feb. 12, 2015, from a distance of about 52,000 miles (83,000 kilometers) as the dwarf planet rotated. The images have been magnified from their original size. The Dawn spacecraft is due to arrive at Ceres on March 6, 2015. Dawn's mission to Vesta and Ceres is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate's Discovery Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital ATK, Inc., of Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. The framing cameras were provided by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Göttingen, Germany, with significant contributions by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Planetary Research, Berlin, and in coordination with the Institute of Computer and Communication Network Engineering, Braunschweig. The visible and infrared mapping spectrometer was provided by the Italian Space Agency and the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics, built by Selex ES, and is managed and operated by the Italian Institute for Space Astrophysics and Planetology, Rome. The gamma ray and neutron detector was built by Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, and is operated by the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.

COALITION AIRSTRIKES CONTINUE

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT
Coalition Continues Airstrikes Against ISIL in Syria, Iraq
From a Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve News Release

SOUTHWEST ASIA, Feb. 18, 2015 – U.S. and coalition military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.

Officials reported details of the latest strikes, which took place between 8 a.m. yesterday and 8 a.m. today, local time, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.

Airstrikes in Syria

Fighter and bomber aircraft conducted two airstrikes in Syria:

-- Near Hasakah, an airstrike struck multiple ISIL oil pump jacks.

-- Near Kobani, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed five ISIL fighting positions.

Airstrikes in Iraq

Attack, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 14 airstrikes in Iraq:
-- Near Asad, three airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit, and destroyed an ISIL mortar tube and an ISIL staging area.

-- Near Qaim, three airstrikes destroyed an ISIL checkpoint, an ISIL bulldozer and an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Bayji, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL building.

-- Near Kirkuk, three airstrikes destroyed an ISIL armored vehicle, an ISIL heavy machine gun, an ISIL vehicle and two excavators.

-- Near Mosul, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit, three ISIL fighting positions and destroyed an ISIL excavator and an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Tal Afar, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL buildings and an ISIL heavy machine gun.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, the region, and the wider international community. The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group's ability to project terror and conduct operations, officials said.

Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq include the United States, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Syria include the United States, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.


SEC SHUTS DOWN ALLEGED PYRAMID AND PONZI SCHEME THAT USED 'TRIPLE ALGORITHM' AND '3-D MATRIX'

FROM:  U.S. SECURITIES  AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION 

The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced fraud charges and an emergency asset freeze against two operators of a Colorado-based pyramid and Ponzi scheme that promises investors extraordinary returns of 700 percent through a purported “triple algorithm” and “3-D matrix.”

In a complaint unsealed yesterday afternoon in federal court in Denver, the SEC alleges that Kristine L. Johnson of Aurora, Colo., and Troy A. Barnes of Riverview, Mich., have raised more than $3.8 million since April 2014 from investors they enticed into buying positions in their company Work With Troy Barnes Inc., which is doing business as “The Achieve Community.”  In Internet videos and other web promotions, investors were pitched “you and anyone you know can make as much money as you want” by purchasing positions that cost $50 each, and as they progress through the matrix they would receive a $400 payout on each position within three to six months.  Barnes claimed to have hired a seasoned programmer to perfect the triple algorithm investment formula supposedly generating the extraordinary returns.

The SEC alleges that while Johnson and Barnes explicitly claimed their program was not a pyramid scheme, their company has no legitimate business operations and they are merely paying purported investment returns to earlier investors as they receive funds from new investors.  Meanwhile, Johnson and Barnes have been making cash withdrawals of investor funds for such personal uses as buying a new car and paying credit card bills.

“Johnson and Barnes allegedly claim to be operating a successful investment program when in fact they are taking funds from new investors to pay phony profits to earlier investors,” said Julie Lutz, Director of the SEC’s Denver Regional Office.

The SEC’s complaint alleges that Work With Troy Barnes, Johnson, and Barnes violated Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5.  The SEC’s complaint names Achieve International LLC as a relief defendant for the purpose of recovering ill-gotten gains from the scheme in its accounts.  The Honorable Robert E. Blackburn, U.S. District Judge for the District of Colorado, granted a temporary restraining order that in part freezes the assets of Johnson, Barnes, and their company.  

The SEC’s investigation, which is continuing, is being conducted by Jeffrey Felder, Kerry Matticks, and Jay A. Scoggins in the Denver office.  The SEC’s litigation is being led by Nicholas Heinke of the Denver office.  The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Colorado Division of Securities.

SECRETARY KERRY'S STATEMENT ON SOLAR POWER FACILITY IN RWANDA

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Launch of Solar Power Facility in Rwanda
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
February 18, 2015

I welcome the completion and launch of an 8.5 MW solar installation in Rwanda by Gigawatt Global. This is the first utility-scale solar project to come online under the U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Finance (ACEF) program, which is now an integral part of Power Africa. The project expands electricity generation capacity by more than 6 percent in a country where more than 80 percent of the people live without access to electricity, and is providing enough grid-connected power to supply 15,000 homes.

With continually decreasing costs, minimal maintenance, and no fuel costs, renewable energy makes more sense now than ever before, especially in remote settings.

Projects like Gigawatt Global's, realized with the support of the U.S. Department of State, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency through ACEF, underscore that the best path to energy access and economic development is also the sustainable path of clean energy.

RUSSIAN NATIONAL EXTRADITED TO U.S. FOR ALLEGED ROLE IN MAJOR INTERNATIONAL HACKING SCHEME

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Russian National Charged in Largest Known Data Breach Prosecution Extradited to United States
Defendant Brought From Netherlands

After Fighting Extradition for Over Two Years

A Russian national appeared in federal court in Newark today after being extradited from the Netherlands to face charges that he conspired in the largest international hacking and data breach scheme ever prosecuted in the United States, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Secretary Jeh Johnson of the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman of the District of New Jersey and Acting Director Joseph P. Clancy of the U.S. Secret Service.

Vladimir Drinkman, 34, of Syktyykar and Moscow, Russia, was charged for his alleged role in a data theft conspiracy that targeted major corporate networks, stole more than 160 million credit card numbers, and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.  Prior to his extradition, he had been detained by the Dutch authorities since his arrest in the Netherlands on June 28, 2012.

Drinkman appeared today before U.S. Magistrate Judge James B. Clark and entered a plea of not guilty to all 11 counts charged in the indictment and was ordered detained without bail.  Trial before U.S. District Judge Jerome B. Simandle was scheduled for April 27, 2015.

“Cyber criminals conceal themselves in one country and steal information located in another country, impacting victims around the world,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “Hackers often take advantage of international borders and differences in legal systems, hoping to evade extradition to face justice.  This case and today's extradition demonstrates that through international cooperation, and through great teamwork between the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, we are able to bring cyber thieves to justice in the United States, wherever they may commit their crimes.”

“Drinkman’s extradition on the indictment this office brought more than a year and a half ago shows how relentlessly we will pursue those who are charged with these serious crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Fishman.  “The incredibly sophisticated work with our partners at the U.S. Secret Service to uncover this enormous, far-reaching scheme demanded an equal effort by our colleagues at the Department of Justice Criminal Division in Washington and our law enforcement partners overseas to bring the defendant back to face these charges.”

“This case demonstrates our commitment to fulfilling an important part of our integrated mission; that of protecting our Nation’s critical financial infrastructure,” said Acting Director Clancy.  “Our success in this investigation and other similar investigations is a credit to our skilled and relentless cyber investigators.  Our determination, coupled with our network of foreign law enforcement partners, ensures that our investigative reach can expand beyond the borders of the United States.”

According to the second superseding indictment, unsealed on July 25, 2013, and other court filings, Drinkman and four co-defendants each served particular roles in the scheme. Drinkman and Alexandr Kalinin, 28, of St. Petersburg, Russia, each allegedly specialized in penetrating network security and gaining access to the corporate victims’ systems.  Roman Kotov, 33, of Moscow, allegedly specialized in mining the networks Drinkman and Kalinin compromised to steal valuable data.  According to allegations in the indictment, the hackers hid their activities using anonymous web-hosting services provided by Mikhail Rytikov, 27, of Odessa, Ukraine.  Dmitriy Smilianets, 31, of Moscow, then allegedly sold the stolen information and distributed the proceeds of the scheme to the participants.

Drinkman and his co-defendants are charged with attacks on NASDAQ, 7-Eleven, Carrefour, JCP, Hannaford, Heartland, Wet Seal, Commidea, Dexia, JetBlue, Dow Jones, Euronet, Visa Jordan, Global Payment, Diners Singapore and Ingenicard.  It is not alleged that the NASDAQ hack affected its trading platform.

Drinkman and Kalinin were previously charged in New Jersey as “Hacker 1” and “Hacker 2” in a 2009 indictment charging Albert Gonzalez, 33, of Miami, in connection with five corporate data breaches, including the breach of Heartland Payment Systems Inc., which at the time was the largest ever reported.  Gonzalez is currently serving 20 years in federal prison for those offenses.  Kalinin is also charged in two federal indictments in the Southern District of New York: one charges Kalinin in connection with hacking certain computer servers used by NASDAQ and the second charges him and another Russian hacker, Nikolay Nasenkov, with an international scheme to steal bank account information from U.S.-based financial institutions.  Rytikov was previously charged in the Eastern District of Virginia with an unrelated scheme.

Drinkman and Smilianets were arrested at the request of the United States while traveling in the Netherlands on June 28, 2012.  Smilianets was extradited on Sept. 7, 2012, and remains in federal custody.  Kalinin, Kotov and Rytikov remain at large.  All of the defendants are Russian nationals except for Rytikov, who is a citizen of Ukraine.

The Attacks

According to allegations in the indictment, the five defendants conspired with others to penetrate the computer networks of several of the largest payment processing companies, retailers and financial institutions in the world, stealing the personal identifying information of individuals.  They allegedly took user names and passwords, means of identification, credit and debit card numbers and other corresponding personal identification information of cardholders. The conspirators allegedly acquired at least 160 million card numbers through hacking.

The initial entry was often gained using a “SQL injection attack.”  SQL, or Structured Query Language, is a type of programming language designed to manage data held in particular types of databases.  The hackers allegedly identified vulnerabilities in SQL databases and used those vulnerabilities to infiltrate a computer network.  Once the network was infiltrated, the defendants allegedly placed malicious code, or malware, on the system.  This malware created a “back door,” leaving the system vulnerable and helping the defendants maintain access to the network.  In some cases, the defendants lost access to the system due to companies’ security efforts, but were allegedly able to regain access through persistent attacks.

Instant message chats obtained by law enforcement reveal that the defendants allegedly targeted the victim companies for many months, waiting patiently as their efforts to bypass security were underway, sometimes leaving malware implanted for more than a year.

The defendants allegedly used their access to the networks to install “sniffers,” which were programs designed to identify, collect and steal data from the victims’ computer networks. The defendants then allegedly used an array of computers located around the world to store the stolen data and ultimately sell it to others.

Selling the Data

After acquiring the card numbers and associated data—which they referred to as “dumps”—the conspirators allegedly sold it to resellers around the world.  The buyers then sold the dumps through online forums or directly to individuals and organizations.  Smilianets was allegedly in charge of sales, selling the data only to trusted identity theft wholesalers.  He allegedly charged approximately $10 for each stolen American credit card number and associated data, approximately $50 for each European credit card number and associated data and approximately $15 for each Canadian credit card number and associated data, offering discounted pricing to bulk and repeat customers.  Ultimately, the end users encoded each dump onto the magnetic strip of a blank plastic card and cashed out the value of the dump by either withdrawing money from ATMs or making purchases with the cards.

Covering Their Tracks

The defendants allegedly used a number of methods to conceal the scheme.  Rytikov allegedly allowed his clients to hack with the knowledge he would never keep records of their online activities or share information with law enforcement.

Over the course of the conspiracy, the defendants allegedly communicated through private and encrypted communications channels to avoid detection.  Fearing law enforcement would intercept even those communications, some of the conspirators allegedly attempted to meet in person.

To protect against detection by the victim companies, the defendants allegedly altered the settings on victim company networks to disable security mechanisms from logging their actions.  The defendants also allegedly worked to evade existing protections by security software.

As a result of the scheme, financial institutions, credit card companies and consumers suffered hundreds of millions in losses—including more than $300 million in losses reported by just three of the corporate victims—and immeasurable losses to the identity theft victims in costs associated with stolen identities and false charges.

The charges and allegations contained indictments are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The ongoing investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Secret Service.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Rick Green of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, Chief Gurbir S. Grewal of the District of New Jersey’s Economic Crimes Unit, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew S. Pak of the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Section of the District of New Jersey’s Economic Crimes Unit.

The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs assisted with the case, as did public prosecutors with the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice and the National High Tech Crime Unit of the Dutch National Police.

SECRETARY KERRY'S STATEMENT ON THE LUNAR NEW YEAR

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Lunar New Year
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
February 18, 2015

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to express my wishes of good health, good fortune, and happiness to those around the world celebrating the Lunar New Year on February 19.

As many throughout the Asia-Pacific and in the United States gather with family, let us also remember the closeness we share as global citizens. We can feel proud of the bonds we have strengthened as Pacific nations, and the prosperity and mutual understanding we have jointly achieved. Let us also look forward to the great possibilities of the New Year. As we continue to advance shared cultural understanding, economic cooperation, regional security, and educational partnerships, we will open doors to mutually beneficial opportunities. Let us build on the momentum of our agreements concerning environmental protection, health improvement, and poverty reduction to better the lives not just of individual countries, but the entire world.

President Obama and I look forward to the year ahead. There will be great challenges, but there will also be great achievements as we work together toward common goals. We wish you a festive Lunar New Year celebration, and success and prosperity in the days to come.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY'S STATEMENT ON DETENTION OF MAZEN DARWISH IN SYRIA

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
The Detention of Mazen Darwish by the Assad Regime
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
February 18, 2015

It has been three years since the Assad regime unjustly detained leading human rights defender Mazen Darwish, founder of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression and a proponent of free speech in Syria.

In February 2012, Darwish and his colleagues were working to expose the Assad regime’s atrocities when regime security forces raided their offices and locked them away. Like tens of thousands of Syrian activists and political prisoners who have been detained and arrested for exercising their universal right to free expression, their support for human rights and non-violent calls for change were met by regime brutality.

Well-documented and horrific abuse within the Syrian detention system has shocked the conscience of the international community. We call on the Assad regime to abide by its international obligations in its treatment of Darwish and all those in its custody.

We reiterate our call for the Assad regime to release Darwish and his colleagues, including prominent blogger Hussein Ghrer and journalist Hani al-Zitani, along with all arbitrarily detained journalists and political prisoners.

U.S. CONGRATULATES PEOPLE OF GAMBIA ON THEIR INDEPENDENCE DAY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
The Gambia National Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
February 18, 2015

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of The Gambia as you celebrate 50 years of independence on February 18.

The United States wishes you a festive Golden Jubilee and a prosperous year.

NSF VIDEO: SMART BANDAGES FOR BURN VICTIMS

SAMANTHA POWER'S EXPLANATION OF U.S. VOTE ON UKRAINE

FROM  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
New York, NY
February 17, 2015
AS DELIVERED

Thank you. We’ve gotten used to living in an upside-down world with respect to Ukraine. Russia speaks of peace, and then fuels conflict. Russia signs agreements, and then does everything within its power to undermine them. Russia champions the sovereignty of nations, and then acts as if a neighbor’s borders do not exist. Yet even for those of us growing accustomed to living in an upside-down world, the idea that Russia – which manufactured and continues to escalate the violence in Ukraine – has tabled a resolution today calling for the conflict’s peaceful solution, is ironic, to say the least. Bitterly ironic, given that this Council has dedicated some thirty meetings to calling on Russia to stop escalating the very same conflict, and given the human consequences that are growing daily.

Even as Russia puts forward this resolution, separatists that Russia has trained, armed and that it fights alongside are laying ruthless and deadly siege to the Ukrainian-held city of Debaltseve, approximately 30 to 40 kilometers beyond lines established by the September Minsk agreements. Throughout the day, we’ve heard conflicting reports as to whether Debaltseve has fallen. According to press reports, the so-called “road of life” leading out of Debaltseve has become a “road of death,” littered with the bodies of Ukrainian soldiers. At just the time this Council is calling for the cease-fire that was supposed to take effect Saturday night at midnight, Russia is backing an all-out assault.

We do not know how many civilians are left in Debaltseve, because Russia and the separatists it supports have refused to guarantee the safety of impartial OSCE monitors who have been trying for days to enter the area – a commitment that, in this upside-down world, Russia and the separatists made on February 12th at Minsk.

But we know from credible press reports that thousands of civilians in Debaltseve and neighboring villages have been sheltering from heavy shelling in dank basements, often without running water, food, electricity, or basic medical supplies. We know that many of the civilians left, who are enduring the terror of this relentless assault, are the elderly and small children – people who could not evacuate on their own.

And even with such limited information, we know with certainty that at the same time that Russia signs onto yet another agreement committing itself to de-escalation and peace, forces that Russia trains, equips, and joins on the battlefield have only escalated this fighting, grabbing more territory and killing the Ukrainian soldiers who stand in their way.

We are caught in a deadly feedback loop. International leaders engage in rigorous, exhaustive negotiations to get Russia to commit to peace – in Geneva, in Normandy, in September in Minsk, in Berlin in February, and then again in Minsk on February 12th when the implementations were signed; and now in New York. Yet Russia’s commitments have no bearing on the actions of its soldiers and the separatists they back on the ground.

Mr. President, the United States has maintained the same position across thirty meetings before this Council with respect to Ukraine. Let me reiterate that position. We are for peace in Ukraine. We are for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and unity. We are for ending the violence in eastern Ukraine that has taken more than 5,600 lives since last April, and displaced already approximately one million people. We are for all of the signatories to the agreements signed in Minsk in September 2014 – particularly Russia and the separatists they back – fulfilling the commitments that they have made. And we are for the “Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements” of September 5 and September 19th, the package of measures endorsed last week by the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France. To be clear, the February 12th implementation package is a roadmap to fulfilling commitments made by these same signatories in the September Minsk Agreements.

President Hollande, President Poroschenko, Chancellor Merkel, and President Putin each made this clear when they endorsed the implementation package on February 12th and issued their joint declaration that they “remain committed to the implementation of the Minsk Agreements.” The “Minsk Agreements” in the title – plural – refer to those signed on September 5 and September 19 by the same signatories, while the “measures for implementation” in the title make clear that the February 12th package was designed to begin carrying out the September agreements, and not to supplant them, as Russia has now begun to argue.

The United States rejects any interpretation of this resolution that would abrogate the parties’ earlier commitments. All parties must implement all of the commitments made in the September Minsk agreements. The implementation steps agreed upon in the February 12th package include a comprehensive cease-fire; the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the September line of contact; the release of all hostages; and the eventual restoration of Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty and control of its international border.

Too often, debates in this Council occur in a vacuum, removed from the real world. In the real world, a man named Aleksei Kravchenko, a 73-year-old in the Ukrainian held-town of Svitlodarsk, near Debaltseve, recently told a reporter that he had spent nights huddled together with his grandchildren in a bomb shelter on his property as shelling continued through the night. Aleksei told the reporter that his grandchildren said to him in the shelter, “Grandpa, I don’t want to die young.” He said, “I held my grandchildren, and they were shaking, and I looked in their eyes, and they were afraid.” With the February 12th agreement, Aleksei said, “Now we are hoping.” The fighting, unfortunately, has in fact increased dramatically near Aleksei’s home.

But we call on Russia to translate hope into real action; to translate hope into real results, and to do so urgently.

Today’s Council session is an effort to throw the Council’s weight behind an agreement already jeopardized by statements by the separatists dismissing the full cease-fire, by their continued attacks on Debaltseve, and by the separatists’ refusal – together with Russia’s – to allow access to the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission. We are looking to Russia, which manufactured and fueled this conflict, to leave the upside-down world it has created and to honor the resolution it tabled today supporting efforts to end it. Thank you.

FORMER MEMBER OF KKK AFFILIATE SENT TO PRISON FOR ROLE IN CROSS BURNING

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Friday, February 13, 2015
Former Klansman Sentenced for Cross Burning

Timothy Flanagan, 33, was sentenced to nine months and ordered to pay a $5000 fine in federal court in Nashville, Tennessee, for his role in the April 30, 2012, cross burning in front of an interracial family’s home in Minor Hill, Tennessee, the Department of Justice announced.  Flanagan previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring with others to threaten, intimidate and interfere with an African-American man’s enjoyment of his housing rights, and one count of interfering with those housing rights.

Flanagan—a former member of the Church of the National Knights, a Ku Klux Klan affiliate—admitted during the plea hearing that on the night of April 30, 2012, he and two other individuals devised a plan to burn a cross in the yard of an African American man in Minor Hill, Tennessee.  Flanagan’s co-conspirator, Timothy Stafford, constructed a wooden cross in a workshop behind his house.  Using Flanagan’s credit card, Stafford and co-conspirator Ivan “Rusty” London then purchased diesel-fuel with which to soak the cross.  Flanagan and the other co-conspirators then drove the cross to the victim’s residence and, upon arriving at the residence, Flanagan and London exited the truck.  The cross was placed in the driveway leading up to the house and was ignited.  The co-conspirators burned the cross with the purpose of intimidating the African-American male who resided at that residence.

Timothy Stafford, 41, of Minor Hill, Tennessee, and Ivan “Rusty” London IV, 21, of Lexington, Kentucky, previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the conspiracy, and will be sentenced on March 3, and March 26, respectively.

“Hate-motivated crimes will not be tolerated in our country,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division.  “The Justice Department will vigorously prosecute individuals that violate the rights of others because of race.”

“There can be no tolerance for such acts of intimidation when innocent persons are targeted simply because of their race,” said U.S. Attorney David Rivera of the Middle District of Tennessee.  “The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners will work tirelessly to protect the civil rights of all persons and bring to justice, anyone who would attempt to impede the constitutionally protected right to liberty of any person.”

This case was investigated by the Columbia, Tennessee, Division of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Jared Fishman of the Civil Rights Division and by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal McDonough of the Middle District of Tennessee.

NSF SAYS SCIENTISTS BELIEVE PREHISTORIC MONSTER HURRICANES STRUCK NORTHEAST U.S.

FROM:  NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
Monster hurricanes struck U.S. Northeast during prehistoric periods of ocean warming
Scientists find clues in sediment deposits on Cape Cod

Intense hurricanes possibly more powerful than any storms New England has experienced in recorded history frequently pounded the region during the first millennium, from the peak of the Roman Empire to the height of the Middle Ages, according to results of a new study.

The finding could have implications for understanding the intensity and frequency of hurricanes the U.S. Northeast may experience in the future.

Looking back to see into the future

A record of sediment deposits from Cape Cod, Mass., shows evidence that 23 severe hurricanes hit New England between the years 250 and 1150, the equivalent of a severe storm about once every 40 years on average.

Many of these hurricanes were likely more intense than any that have hit the area in recorded history.

"The ability to produce and synthesize thousands of years of data on hurricane paths and frequencies is revolutionizing our understanding of what controls where and how often these dangerous storms make landfall," said Candace Major, program director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Ocean Sciences, which funded the research.

The prehistoric hurricanes were likely category 3 storms (such as Hurricane Katrina) or category 4 storms (Hurricane Hugo) that would be catastrophic if they hit the region today, according to Jeff Donnelly, a scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, and lead author of a paper on the results published online today in Earth's Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

Hurricane record extended by centuries

The study is the first to find evidence of historically unprecedented hurricane activity along the northern East Coast of the United States.

It also extends the hurricane record for the region by hundreds of years, back to the first century.

"These records suggest that the pre-historical interval was unlike what we've seen in the last few hundred years," said Donnelly.

The most powerful storm to hit Cape Cod in recent times was Hurricane Bob in 1991, a category 2 storm that was one of the costliest in New England history.

Storms of that intensity have only reached the region three times since the 1600s, according to Donnelly.

Warmer sea surface temperatures

The intense prehistoric hurricanes were fueled in part by warmer sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean than have been the norm off the U.S. East Coast over the last few hundred years.

However, as ocean temperatures have slowly inched upward in recent decades, tropical North Atlantic sea surface temperatures have surpassed the warmth of prehistoric levels--and are expected to warm more over the next century as the climate heats up, Donnelly said.

"We hope this study broadens our sense of what is possible and what we should expect in a warmer climate," Donnelly said. "We may need to begin planning for a category 3 hurricane landfall every decade or so rather than every 100 or 200 years.

"The risk may be much greater than we anticipated."

Buried in sediment: hurricane remains

Donnelly and colleagues examined sediment deposits from Salt Pond near Falmouth on Cape Cod. The pond is separated from the ocean by a 1.3- to 1.8-meter (4.3 to 5.9-foot) high sand barrier.

Over hundreds of years, strong hurricanes have deposited sediment over the barrier and into the pond where it has remained undisturbed.

The researchers extracted nine-meter (30-foot) deep sediment cores, which they then analyzed in a laboratory.

Similar to reading a tree ring to tell the age of a tree and the climate conditions that existed in a given year, scientists can read a sediment core to determine when intense hurricanes occurred.

The paper's authors found evidence of 32 prehistoric hurricanes, along with the remains of three documented storms that occurred in 1991, 1675 and 1635.

The sediments showed that there were two periods of intense hurricane activity on Cape Cod -- from 150 to 1150, and 1400 to 1675.

The earlier period of powerful hurricane activity matched previous studies that found evidence of hurricanes during the same period in more southerly areas of the western North Atlantic Ocean basin--from the Caribbean to the Gulf Coast.

Powerful storms also battered more southerly U.S. coasts

The new study suggests that these powerful southern storms also battered the coast farther north through New England from 250 to 1150.

These early storms were more frequent, and in some cases were likely more intense, than the most severe hurricanes Cape Cod has seen in historical times, including Hurricane Bob in 1991 and a 1635 hurricane that generated a 20-foot storm surge, according to Donnelly.

The hurricane activity continued in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico until 1400, although there was a lull during this time in New England.

A shift in hurricane activity in the North Atlantic occurred around 1400, when activity picked up from the Bahamas to New England, until about 1675.

Co-authors of the paper are: Andrea Hawkes of the University of North Carolina Wilmington; Philip Lane (deceased); Dana MacDonald, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Bryan Shuman, University of Wyoming; Michael Toomey, The University of Texas at Austin; Peter van Hengstum, Texas A&M University at Galveston; and Jonathan Woodruff, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

-NSF-
Media Contacts
Cheryl Dybas, NSF

VP BIDEN SWEARS IN ASHTON CARTER AS U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

Right:  Vice President Joe Biden swears in Ash Carter as the 25th defense secretary as Carter's wife, Stephanie, looks on during a private ceremony at the White House, Feb. 17, 2015. DoD screen shot.  
Carter Takes Oath of Office in White House Ceremony
By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Feb. 17, 2015 – With his wife, Stephanie, holding the Bible upon which he swore to support and defend the U.S. Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, Ash Carter took the oath of office as the 25th secretary of defense in a ceremony at the White House today.

Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath in the Roosevelt Room, characterizing Carter as a genuine scholar of strategic military affairs and nuclear weapons policy and as a profoundly capable manager “with universal respect and affection from the people you work with, reflected in a near-unanimous vote in the U.S. Senate.”

“For me,” Carter said after taking the oath, “this is the highest honor, to be the 25th secretary of defense. I'm grateful to [President Barack Obama] and the vice president for your trust and confidence, and to the U.S. Senate as well for their trust and confidence.”

Attending the ceremony were Carter’s son, Will, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., members of Carter’s transition team, and several men and women in uniform.

A Driving Intellectual Force

In his introduction, Biden called Carter a “physicist and a genuine expert on the acquisition and technical capabilities that are going to help guarantee the U.S. military is second to none in the world.”

Carter has a driving intellectual force behind all he does and all the administration has been doing, the vice president added, including strengthening the nation's cyber capabilities, improving the way the Pentagon does business, and implementing the Asia-Pacific rebalance, including deepening defense cooperation with India.

“Most important of all, you've been a fighter,” Biden told Carter, “like the men and women in uniform here today, for the women and men who serve in uniform.”

The defense secretary, like his predecessor, Biden added, “understands that while this country has many obligations, it only has one truly sacred obligation, and that's to equip and protect those we send to war, care for their families while they're there, and care for them and their families when they come home.”

Tough Missions Ahead

Many tough missions lie ahead, the vice president said, from fighting against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, strengthening NATO, and rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region, to maintaining the nation’s technological edge and continuous efforts to make the most out of every dollar invested in defense.
“Dr. Carter,” Biden said, “as you take leadership of the greatest military in the history of mankind, … you do so with the confidence of everyone in your building, confidence of the United States Senate, confidence of President Obama and me, and so many other people who admire your work.”

Carter thanked his wife and children, his transition team and the team he joins at the Pentagon, including Work, Dempsey, Winnefeld and others.

The defense secretary characterized the defense of the nation as “the highest calling,” and he made three commitments to the men and women of the Defense Department, to the president and vice president, and to his fellow citizens.
Three Commitments

“The first is to help our president make the best possible decisions about our security and the [world’s] security, and then to ensure that our department executes those decisions with its long accustomed competence and effectiveness,” he said.

While dealing with challenges to national security, Carter said, he wants to help the nation’s leadership grab hold of opportunities that lie before the country, and to help make the world safer and a better place for the next generation.
“My second commitment is to the men and women of the Department of Defense, whom I will lead, to reflect in everything I do and to honor the commitment and dedication that brought them into service,” Carter said, “and to protect their dignity, their safety, their well-being, [and] to make decisions about sending them into harm’s way with the greatest reflection and care.”

A Force for the Future

Carter’s third commitment was to the future, he said, “to building a force for our future that involves not only securing the resources we need but making … the best use of the taxpayers’ dollar, making sure we embrace change so that years from now, … we continue to be a place where America's finest want to serve, and a place that is a beacon to the rest of the world.”

As Obama enters the fourth quarter of his presidency, the defense secretary added, “these commitments, … I think, will help me help him and help the vice president to ensure that those years are productive, and that they leave our country's future in the best possible place -- in the best possible hands.”